RAYMOND – Elizabeth Taylor, 28, of Raymond, admits she was without direction after high school and a short-lived semester at Hinds Community College.
“Due to a lack of direction, my grades suffered and I ended up no longer being eligible for financial aid funding,” Taylor said. “Since I was not going to school or working, I would walk to town every day to spend time in the library. One day in 2016 while I was walking, someone stopped and offered me a ride.”
The driver was Mitzi Thomas, director of the SNAP Employment &Training Skills2Work program at Hinds. The program is intended to assist eligible SNAP recipients gain skills, training, work, or experience that will increase self-sufficiency.
“Apparently, I have always had a heart for helping others,” Thomas said. “My staff and I work to help students like Elizabeth overcome daily struggles and obstacles that hinder the ability to obtain an education.”
From then on, Taylor had more than just a ride to the library – she found a path back to finishing school.
Five years later, Taylor now holds two associate degrees, in Agribusiness Animal Science Technology and another through the college’s Meat Merchandising program. She is among about 900 students receiving at least one credential from the college during ceremonies May 13 and 15 at the Rankin and Utica campuses. Ceremonies will be held with only graduates in attendance and under proper COVID-19 protocols. Families and friends will be able to watch through livestreaming.
“It feels good to earn another diploma here,” Taylor said. “I have continued to study and work hard to keep making good grades. I’ve also been blessed to have the support of everyone in the agriculture department and with the Skills2Work program who’ve helped me through this journey. I’ll be feeding America and the world to work in agriculture.”
She’s eager to find work in animal science or agriculture while she works currently with the college’s custodial staff on the Raymond Campus, assisting in daily maintenance of campus buildings. Her perseverance to finish a degree endeared her to faculty so much that they coordinated a crowdfunding effort online to buy her a car.
“It didn’t matter what the weather was outside, she used to walk to campus and, most days, would beat me to class,” said Lee Douglas, who taught some of Taylor’s agribusiness classes. “Eventually, that led us to develop the GoFundMe account to purchase a car for her. She now has a full time job, too. It has been a journey for everyone, but it has definitely been a bright light in an otherwise darker time.”